This week, Sara Walsh and 88 of her Republican colleagues in the House voted against giving Missouri women much-needed protections in their fight for equal pay. That’s especially devastating for the more than 40% of households that rely on the wages of women.

My opponent tried to defend this vote, saying it “was unnecessary as our current state statutes already clearly define and protect discrimination against women since the 1960’s.”

But the current statutes leave much to be desired and are unnecessarily narrow, going so far as to define “female” as any woman over the age of 18. The proposed changes to the law in Rep. Brandon Ellington’s amendment would have ensured that every worker is protected from gender-based discrimination and prohibited reducing any worker’s pay to comply with the law.

Provisions would also have allowed a court to award compensatory damages in an amount not to exceed twice the lost compensation, along with punitive damages for employers that are proven to have engaged in a pattern of gender-based discrimination. Finally, this measure would have prohibited employers from retaliating against employees for making inquiries into pay discrimination.

Without allowing employees to recover damages beyond lost wages and prohibiting retaliation for investigating pay discrimination, there is little incentive for employers to follow the law. The fact that the gender pay gap persists 50 years later is clear evidence that we need to do more.

The families and women of the 50th District and Missouri deserve a representative who will fight for equal footing in the workplace.

Today, on International Women’s Day, let’s raise our voices together and demand better.

-Michela Skelton